Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs -  A Sober Perspective

    When we talk about democratization under Gorbachev and his desire to lead the country out of its most serious crisis ever, the crisis created by his Party, when we talk about his good intentions towards the Church and believers, for me personally this is only evidence of his demonic shrewdness. Thanks to this, he has received much sympathy from the West while producing very little in exchange. Gorbachev, as a communist with such shrewdness, is more dangerous in foreign policy alone than even Stalin. The Church must not compromise with the atheistic communist government, because the Church believes only in the truth, not in half-truths. Vladimir Rusak, in Human Rights Worldwide, No. 2,3, July 1989


Our readers are well acquainted with the case of Vladimir Rusak, who was imprisoned in the Soviet Union (under conditions of 'glasnost') for having written a three-volume history, of the Church since the Revolution, exposing the Soviet infiltration of the Moscow Patriarchate hierarchy. He was finally released m October, 1988, and arrived in this country together with his wife Galina, in April, 1989.

Before settling in Jordanville, NY, where he is continuing his research and hopes to teach in the Holy Trinity Seminary, Rusak gave several lectures to church and human rights groups across the country.

      Speaking on May 3 at the San Francisco cathedral, Joy of All Who Sorrow, he began by saying that he was afraid that what he had to say would disappoint his listeners. News of the release of prisoners and the return of churches has given people the impression that freedom of religion in the USSR is at last becoming realized. Rusak, however, put a different perspective on the facts. True, he said, several hundred churches have been opened, some icons and relics returned... But why must we lavish praise on a thief for returning stolen property, especially when the return is but a fraction of his booty. Why don't we have a more objective view of the activities of the Soviets? Why applaud their much-publicized returns when we should be demanding a full restitution? If the US government seized even one church and began using it as a warehouse for grain surplus, it would be flooded with irate criticism. Why not apply the same standard to what is going on in the Soviet Union? Hundreds of requests have been made to open churches. If the authorities are sincere, they should return everything; no churches should be used for anything but worship.

      If the communists are serious about religious freedom, they should abolish censorship of the religious press, Every diocese should have the right to publish religious literature. Priests should be free of the control of the government's Council for Religious Affairs; they are not. The Soviet government should be openly reproached for its failure to abide by its own laws governing the separation of Church and State.

      Turning to the subject of Sergianism (the Church's subordination to an atheist State), Rusak called for 1) the repentance of the Soviet Church hierarchy; 2)the complete renunciation of the 1927 Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius; and 3) the glorification of Russia's New Martyrs of the Communist yoke. Only after these conditions are met will the healing of the relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church Abroad be possible. In general, he added, the Russian Church Abroad should make itself more well-known; it is too silent.

      Rusak criticized Patriarch Pimen for not giving an example of steadfastness; instead, he is constantly making compromises with the atheist government, thinking in this way to "save" the Church. To really benefit the Church, said Rusak, hierarchs should look to the example of St. John Chrysostom who fearlessly stood up to the Emperor for the sake of the Truth. He was exiled, but his refusal to compromise strengthened the Church. Rusak pointed out that the Moscow Patriarchate hierarchs do not believe in perestroika. They are afraid. If perestroika fails, the first to suffer will be the believers.


He has repeatedly confronted authorities, criticizing the regime back to the time of Lenin for its decimation of Russian life. It is fashionable in these days of glasnost and perestroika to talk about the crimes of Stalin, but Rusak believes the crimes of Lenin made all subsequent crimes possible


      Speaking of his own recent experience in prison and the camps, Rusak told of the horrific psychological pressures he endured. And this was not under Stalin, but under Gorbachev, only months ago. Rusak is still suffering the effects of prison malnutrition which weakened his eyesight.

    Blame, he said, is everywhere but on the Party. But there is hope. People are becoming more bold in their expression of criticism; there are demonstrations, hunger strikes for the opening of churches; independent samizdat publications are being produced in growing numbers; people are making great sacrifices for the sake of the Faith. All this speaks of a healthy, vigorous life among believers. In Christianity, concluded Rusak, there is no place for pessimism. If we try to love God and our neighbor, God will come to our aid.

      At a conference sponsored by Keston College USA in Dallas a few days later, Rusak singled out video cameras, cassettes, copying machines and computers as equipment which would greatly benefit the work of Soviet believers. He also called for more Christian and less secular programming on the part of Western broadcasting companies. Help us, he urged the audience, to "redeem the times".

            Rusak and his wife now face the difficult task of starting a new life in a foreign country (they are expecting their first child in August). ….